Today baseball marks the 64th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Two years before that, Jackie was breaking into professional baseball as the shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. He was only a Monarch for five months before Branch Rickey offered him a contract, and the Monarchs spent most of their schedule on the road, so Kansas City fans only had around 12 dates to see Jackie patrolling the infield of Ruppert (later Municipal) Stadium at 22nd & Brooklyn. Here are details from some of those home games:
May 6 • vs Chicago American Giants
After playing a month of exhibition games in the south, the Monarchs opened the regular season at home on a Sunday. Pre-game festivities started at 2:00, and “began with a parade led by the Wayne Minor American Legion drum corps and Arthur E. Toney, president of the Monarchs Boosters’ club. A detail of the Kansas State Guard…drilled. Dr. J.B. Martin, league president, was introduced from the pitcher’s mound. James H. Herbert, attorney, pitched the first ball to Eddie Dwight, a member of the Monarchs when ‘Bullet’ Rogan was manager” (May 11 Kansas City Call). Jackie had been so impressive during the spring exhibitions that manager Frank Duncan had him hitting third in his first league game. Jackie came through with an RBI double in the sixth inning, a stolen base and run scored to help the Monarchs to a 6-2 win. Booker McDaniels pitched a complete game for KC.
May 13 • vs Birmingham Black Barons
A week later, the Black Barons came to KC for a double header. Legendary Monarchs pitcher Hilton Smith dominated game one with a complete game, 3 runs allowed performance on the bump and a 2-for-3, three RBI day at the plate. Jackie went 1-for-3 with two RBI and was rung up for an error. The Monarchs won game two as well.
June 10 • vs Cincinnati-Indianapolis Clowns
After four long weeks on the road, the Monarchs finally returned to KC to meet the Clowns for another Sunday double header. Some guy named Satchel Paige started the first game for the Monarchs, and struck out six while allowing one hit and no runs in his four innings of work. Jackie had a nice 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBI and two runs, and KC prevailed 7-1. They dropped the nightcap for their first home loss of the season.
July 1 • vs Cleveland Buckeyes
The Buckeyes had everyone’s number in 1945. They won both halves of the American League season and then upset the National League Homestead Grays in the World Series. The Monarchs lost all five contests with them that I am aware of in ’45. That includes two losses in KC on July 1. The Monarchs blew late leads in both games. Jackie had one single in four at-bats plus a run scored in the first game. Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe started at catcher in one of his few games as a Monarch, but was knocked out by a foul tip off the bat of Sam Jethroe (future NL Rookie of the Year).
July 4 • vs Cleveland Buckeyes
The teams met for another twin bill in KC three days later, and the Buckeyes came out on top in both games once again. The Monarchs hot-hitting first baseman Lee Moody injured his shoulder in batting practice, which lead to some shuffling of infielders. Jackie took over first base. The out-of-place fielders piled up errors in the two losing efforts.
July 8 • vs Birmingham Black Barons
A crowd of just 1,900 braved some nasty weather to watch this game which was played on nearly ankle-deep mud. Those hearty fans witnessed Jackie smack three hits in five at-bats, with two doubles, two runs and three RBI. Behind another strong pitching performance from Booker McDaniels, KC walked away 9-2 winners.
August 5 • vs Ft. Leavenworth Sherman Field Flyers
This was an exhibition game against white Navy men from nearby Leavenworth, Kansas. The pitcher for the Flyers was Herman Besse, who split time between the Navy, the minors and majors between 1936-54. Satchel Paige and Booker McDaniels combined for 10 strikeouts against the Navy men, who had won the semi-pro championship in 1944, and the Monarchs prevailed 6-0. Jackie made the most of his 1-for-5 day at the plate with an RBI, stolen base and run scored. This was Jackie’s last game in KC. By the time the Monarchs returned to play on September 2nd, Jackie was no longer with the team, and was under contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.